Dram Shop Liability

Car Accident Lawyers Representing People in Syracuse and Rochester

Most people turn to the drunk driver to recover damages when they are injured in a drunk driving accident. However, under New York's Dram Shop Law, it is illegal to sell alcohol to people who are visibly drunk or who are actually or who seem to be under age 21. Our Syracuse drunk driving accident attorneys can help victims try to recover damages after a car crash by establishing dram shop liability in addition to pursuing any compensation that you may be able to obtain from the drunk driver.

Proving Dram Shop Liability

An establishment that sells alcohol can be held strictly liable for a Dram Shop violation. In order to establish liability under the New York dram shop law, you must be able to show that you were injured by someone who was drunk, there was an illegal commercial sale of alcohol to that person because either they were actually or seemingly under age 21 or they were visibly drunk at the time of the sale, and the alcohol sale contributed to the person's drunkenness.

Courts in New York usually apply the Dram Shop Act to the sale of alcohol for profit. They have decided in various cases not to apply this law when there were employer-employee events and in situations when guests got drunk in a private home. In one case, dram shop liability did not attach when minors were the social guests consuming the alcohol. However, you should consult an attorney about whether liability is likely to attach in your particular situation if you were injured by a drunken person or minor who was served alcohol in a social situation.

Even if you establish that a drunk driver bought the alcohol in a sales transaction, you will also need to show that the sale was made directly to the drunk driver. If the sale was to somebody else who did not cause you harm, the vendor does not have strict liability. Generally, courts have rejected claims that there is strict liability simply based on the huge amount of alcohol that was bought in situations in which the drunk driver was not present in the actual sale. Vendors do not have a duty to investigate why somebody is buying so much alcohol.

Thus, for example, if a drunk driver who caused your car accident was in a group at a dark nightclub, and somebody else in the group went up to the bar to buy multiple rounds of drinks for everyone, Dram Shop liability probably would not attach because the bar would not have necessarily observed that the drunk driver was visibly intoxicated. However, visible intoxication can be based on circumstantial evidence. It can be proven with eyewitness testimony or expert testimony.

In addition to proving that an establishment illegally sold alcohol as provided above, your attorney will also need to prove that the sale of the alcohol caused the accident that resulted in your injuries. For example, there would be a causal connection if a tavern kept selling beers to an underage minor, and then the minor drove home, blacked out due to excessive intoxication, and T-boned your car, thereby causing your injuries. Similarly, in a wrongful death action, you would need to show that the sale of alcohol under the specific conditions described above was a legal cause of your loved one's death. Both actual and exemplary damages can be recovered under the Dram Shop Act.

Retain an Experienced Syracuse Lawyer to Establish Dram Shop Liability

If you are seriously injured or a loved one is killed due to a drunk driver, you should retain an attorney who can look at all of the possible sources of compensation. In some cases, a drunk driver's own insurance coverage is not sufficient to compensate for catastrophic injuries or a wrongful death. You should speak with an attorney who can look at the possibility of Dram Shop liability. This area of law can be complicated, and it is important to consult a lawyer right away after suffering injuries. DeFrancisco & Falgiatano represents people injured in drunk driving accidents in the areas around Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Auburn, Elmira, Norwich, Cortland, Delhi, Herkimer, Watertown, Lowville, Oneida, Wampsville, Utica, Canandaigua, Oswego, Cooperstown, Ithaca, and Lyons. Call us at 315-479-9000 or contact us via our online form.

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